This is for Kale. Someday down the road, he will will read this and roll his eyes and tell me I am sooo (insert current word for crazy sappy mommy). But maybe someday on further down the road, he will read this and know it was written with love.
Two years ago, right this moment (10:25am), Kale was resting quite calmly inside my womb. He never, not once, seemed to even acknowledge the stress that my body was experiencing. His only danger was the fact that I was in danger. In true boy form, he was pretty much sending the message of "you deal with it mom, because I am feeling just fine!"
At 11:11am, the doctor brought him out of my womb and into the bright lights and cool air of the operating room. He screamed with all his 4 lb 11oz and 18 inches of might. And then he was quite for .0009 of a second before screaming again. He was not happy with what had happened. He had been warm and comfy and playing with his toes and then BAM, cold air and bright lights and all kinds of people up in his face. So, he turned red and screamed.
His daddy went to be with him as he passed his first tests with flying colors. His apgar scores were equal to those of a full term baby. He was breathing on his own. They wrapped him up and brought him to me. I couldn't hold him. The doctors were still working on me. So they held him beside my head and I whispered to him. He was quiet at that point. I whispered things like "I love you" and "you are sooooo strong" and some more I love you's.
Kale was born a mess of bones and skin. He missed the fattening stage of my pregnancy, so he was pretty darn lean. I remember wondering how long it would take him to grow into his flabby skin that hung from his tiny bones. His butt was non-existent. His eyes were very alert.
I wish I could tell him about the next several hours of his life, but I can't. I can tell him what I remember others telling me. I know that he wasn't on oxygen support long...something like 18 hours as a precaution, but he didn't really need it. I don't know when they started feeding him. I know he had a nasal tube that was used to feed him. He like to snuggle up on his belly, much like he still likes to do now. I know that his daddy came to see him several times but didn't hold him until days later. Son, you intimidated your daddy. He can say that isn't true or that it was something else. Sorry, but you intimiated him with your little itty bittiness. My parents went in to see Kale and touched him and took pictures and fell all kinds of head over heels in love with Kale. I know that Ep took his mom, dad, sister, and brother in law in to see Kale as well. I don't know when though...because I was in the black hole of oblivion (sleep).
I finally got to go see him that night. I didn't really know what to expect. This wasn't the arrival I had imagined for him. I wanted him to be in my room with me and for us to all go home together. Instead, he got his own little section of a room he shared with 2-3 other babies and sometimes it seemed they were all in a competition to see who could make the monitors beep the most. Kale was continually hooked up to oxygen/heart monitors, because that is the rule of the NICU. But after the first few days, those were the only wires that remained attached to him. He battled with jaundice and almost made it out of the incubator but then got sent back because he let his temp drop below 98. Most people don't realize it, but preemies have to work really hard to just keep thier temperature stabilized and over 98 degrees. In fact, they have to LEARN how to do that. The second try out of the incubator worked. We knew we were really making progress. The rule of thumb is that a preemie will stay in the hospital until the original due date. For Kale, that would have been six weeks. He seemed to be more on track for just a few weeks. We had some false starts with getting to go home. Those were emotional and scary moments. Joy of going home, pure fear of taking this tiny baby home and not having nurses to tell you if something isn't right, and then the disapointment that you are not going home after all. Along the way, Kale and I found a compromise with me feeding him. We found a rhythm and things that worked. Really, as long as we gave him my milk, he didn't care if he got it straight from me or from a bottle.
We went from just being able to touch him, to me holding him, to Ep holding him, to feeding him, to walking to the nursing room alone with him....and then we had to go home without him. THAT was hard son. Really hard.
On day 8, we spent a full day/night in the hospital with him to prove that we could care for him continually. We apparently passed the test because the next morning at 9 days old, they gave him shots and circumsized him. Not so much of a wonderful exit from his point of view! I like to look at it as their way of saying, "this should keep you from wanting to come back soon!"
I would like to say that then we went home and life was happy ever after. That wasn't the case and we all know it. But it was our life ever after and your story and us learning quickly how amazingly strong Kale could be.
In the midst of dirty diapers and eating non-stop and waking somebody up every two hours and all the fun that comes with a newborn, Kale had a card up his sleeve. And when Kale showed that card to us, oh boy oh boy, he got our attention. We all know that struggle and adventure Kale gave us.
We all know it was just Kale's way of saying "See how strong I am? Let's just be clear about that now. So, when I am growing and making you want to pull your hair out and constantly making you wonder what is next, you can honestly say that I have ALWAYS been this way from the beginning."
...and we listened.
Kale, happy birthday son. Its been a miraculous and amazingly blessed two wonderful years. Your mommy and daddy and everyone else loves you immensely. We can't remember what life was like before you arrived. (well, we think maybe it involved a litte more sleep). Your mommy and daddy both love you with all of thier hearts. Mommy and Daddy have agreed that we both love you more than we love each other. Son, that is a heck of a lot of love. You constantly keep us in awe and laughing. You never fail to amaze us. You always keep us in our place. Each day, we are thankful for the blessing of Kale George Fletcher.